The 5 Big Moves to Sustainable Transportation

Image Source: Photo of Traffic with Smog from the EPA.

By: Bee Mittermiller, SD350 Transportation Committee Leader

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is working on a 2021 regional transportation plan they have nicknamed “The Five Big Moves.” We must speak up to make sure this plan prioritizes transit over highways.

Although these 40-year plans are updated every four years, what we know of the next plan indicates a marked departure from SANDAG’s highway-centric past plans and could shift our transportation system for years to come. To understand how important this current planning phase at SANDAG is, it helps to know the composition and recent history of the organization.

SANDAG has a large staff led by the Executive Director, Hasan Ikhrata, but ultimately its decisions are determined by a Board of Directors—members representing all 18 local cities’ city councils and the County’s Board of Supervisors. They are appointed by each city council and the supervisors. So the decisions they make reflect local politics. 

Tens of billions of dollars of public tax dollars are spent in the San Diego area for public transportation, which includes the automobile system, the public transit system, and the bicycle system.

Gary Gallegos was the Executive Director before Mr. Ikhrata was hired. However, in August of 2017 he resigned from the position in disgrace. What led to this was the failure of Measure A on the 2016 ballot, which would have increased the sales tax by a half cent for additional revenue for SANDAG. An independent investigation concluded that SANDAG had intentionally misled the public about internal calculations that raised significant doubts that the levy would actually deliver its promised $18 billion over 40 years, and also showed that the existing “transnet” sales tax was failing to meet estimated revenues, creating significant shortfalls in the budget.

Meanwhile, tension had grown between those in urban centers who wanted to focus almost exclusively on new mass-transit projects and those in suburban communities who wanted to focus on highways and auto-centric planning. Politicians and environmental groups—including the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the Sierra Club, and then Attorney General, Kamala Harris—were especially disgruntled with SANDAG’s plan under Gary Gallegos’ leadership. In 2011, these groups sued SANDAG, but were ultimately overruled by the Calofornia Supreme Court.

When Hasan Ikhrata became the new Executive Director in December, 2018, he inherited the plan being developed under Gallegos that was based on revenue projections that proved to be overly optimistic. That plan was unaffordable and unable to meet the State requirements for greenhouse gas emission reduction.

An extension was granted to allow SANDAG time to start the planning process all over again. The Board of Directors has been approving the plan, now called “The Five Big Moves,” at each vote along the way, but as the deadline approaches, some of the members are pushing for more highway projects that they claim were “promised” and necessary for safety. If they do add more highway lanes, greenhouse gas emissions will increase, and thereby jeopardize the ability of the plan to meet or exceed the State targets for cleaner air.

By law, the public has the right to give input during the planning process. Our voices are needed to let the members of the Board of Directors know that we support “The Five Big Moves” as the best way to solve our transportation problems and the urgent problems of climate change.

SanDiego350 has the unique opportunity to meet with SANDAG’s Executive Director, Hasan Ikhrata, to discuss the most pressing issues in regional transportation and climate change. Join us virtually on Wednesday July 22nd at 7:00 pm by registering here.

Tom Steyer draws large crowd for climate change lecture

by Celeste Oram

Over 400 San Diegans arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Hillcrest Thursday evening to hear a decisive, energetic message on clean energy and climate action from climate advocate and philanthropist Tom Steyer. The public talk, organized by grassroots climate action organization SanDiego350, was co-sponsored by over 20 San Diego community groups. In a week of devastating natural disasters and controversial political announcements, the clarity of Steyer’s clean energy message was warmly received by a fired-up audience.

Welcoming remarks by the cathedral’s Dean, Penny Bridges, soberly reflected the urgency of the evening’s discussion, and a moment’s silence was held for victims of recent natural disasters: Hurricanes Harvey and Irma; wildfires on the West Coast; flooding in Pakistan and Bangladesh; landslides in Sierra Leone.

[Read more…]

SanDiego350 Climate Presentation at Lions Club – National City

By Mônica Prado, SanDiego350 

On August 31st, the SanDiego350 Presentation Team shared with members of a local Lions Club in National City what we can do together to solve the climate crisis. Presenters Nancy Cottingham and Beverly Harju explained what climate change is and how we, as individuals and collectively, can act towards reducing fossil fuels emissions.  The presentation was organized by Larry Emerson, a National City resident and SanDiego350 volunteer, with the support of National City Host Lions Club.

Nancy Cottingham presenting at National City Lion’s Club, Photo by Mônica Prado

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State Legislative Initiatives on Climate You’ll Want to Support

By James Ferguson, SanDiego350

We have known for 50 years or more now that the effect of releasing millions of years of biologically-captured carbon into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels would trap infrared heat radiation. According to James Hansen, formerly the top climate scientist at NASA, our climate is stable when the level of carbon dioxide does not exceed 350 ppm in earth’s atmosphere.

SanDiego350’s Climate Legislation training, July 2017, Hillcrest – Photo by Olga Cortes

This Summer, monitoring stations in the mid-Pacific measured net carbon concentrations at an average of over 400 ppm! This increase in the level of CO2 has raised the average global temperature by 1° Celsius since the dawn of the industrial revolution, with another 0.5° Celsius locked in from greenhouse gases already emitted (due to the lag between when greenhouse gases are emitted and resultant temperature rise). [Read more…]

SANDAG is Ailing; Assembly Bill 805 Could Be the Cure

By Lisa Wellens/ SanDiego350

Tired of stalled progress from San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)? Frustrated with its failure to address  San Diego’s poor air quality and lack of transportation options in overburdened communities? Outraged at it’s latest scandal – hiding financing shortfalls and misleading voters about how much money Measure A would raise?

Wishing this planning organization would do the work to bring about a holistic, connected, transportation system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with state targets? Assembly Bill 805, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher could be just what’s needed – kicking the agency into gear with better representation, accountability, transparency, and an eye towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
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2017 People’s Climate March

by Celeste Oram and Mark Hughes

2017 People's Climate March

People marching in San Diego. Photo by Greg Lowe.

On April 29th, 2017, SanDiego350 and partner organizations put on our local version of the People’s Climate March. This march was held last in 2014 and around 1,500 people participated. This year, the goal was to double that number, but that’s not what happened. Instead, the rally and march drew over 5,000 people. A success by any measure, and that was matched by the tens of thousands across the country and across the world who took part in the collective march. There is no doubt our demands on our leaders to respect science in general and climate science in particular, to get in step with nearly all the rest of the world, was heard. Perhaps our voices were even loud enough to break through the walls that separate some people’s alternate worlds from ours. This is critical, because while our collective knowledge makes us powerful, our individual ignorance makes us dangerous. And one day’s march, no matter how many people take part, will not solve the problem. Only sustained presence, sustained demands, will impel our leaders to act on our demands and on the needs of our planet and the life it sustains.

–Mark [Read more…]

SD350 Impressions of the Downtown Women’s March

The International Women’s March was held on Saturday, January 21st, 2017. More than 670 sister marches were held around the world, in countries and places as diverse as Belarus, Ghana, Iraq, Vietnam, and Antarctica. All in all, an estimated 4.8 million people took part, all marching to declare that women’s rights are human rights, to demand justice for all, including the environment.

SD350 Women's March

SD350 members take part in Women’s March. Photo by Bill Wellhouse.

It all started on one computer, with Theresa Shook asking 40 Facebook friends what if they descended upon Washington DC around Inauguration day to make their demands known? The next morning, she awoke to find that 10,000 people had signed up. The event(s) only escalated from there, in true democratic fashion. One person, indeed, can make a difference.

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SD350 Joins Fight for $15 Demonstration Against Puzder Nomination

By David Gangsei, Ph.D.

On 1/12/17, a cloudy, cool, and rainy Thursday, four SD350 members (Mark, Karen, Tyson, and myself) took part in a rally organized by the labor coalition, Fight for $15, to protest the nomination of Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. CEO Andy Puzder for Secretary of Labor in the Trump administration. Thirty spirited protesters gathered for the  rally, held at the Carl’s Jr. located at 3008 El Cajon Blvd.

Dr. Peter Brownell speaks to protesters. Photo by D. Gangsei.

Dr. Peter Brownell speaks to protesters. Photo by D. Gangsei.

Speakers included two minimum wage workers, Simone and Danielle, Fight for $15 organizer Emiliana Sparaco, Rabbi Shai Cherry representing the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, and Dr. Peter Brownell from the Center for Policy Initiatives. Themes addressed included the necessity of a higher minimum wage, the destructive working conditions faced by Carl’s Jr. and other fast food workers, the documented history of labor abuses and official findings against Carl’s Jr., and the moral imperative to treat all people with fairness and justice. Recent CPI research shows that $20/hr is needed in San Diego to cover our higher cost of living – and the current CA minimum wage is $11/hr. Simone and Danielle said they must have government assistance to make ends meet. What this means is that the government is subsidizing not only fast food industry labor, but all minimum wage jobs.

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The Benefits of Community Choice Energy – and How California Utilities Aim to Block Them

Originally Published in the San Diego Free Press on 12/22/2016

by Tyson Siegele

In California, the fight is on between renewable energy advocates and the old guard electric utilities. All across California, cities and counties have been moving to implement Community Choice programs because they provide cheaper, cleaner, locally generated electricity. In fact these programs are so good, the utilities hope you never hear about them.

how-it-words-graphic

Community Choice Energy delivery model. The CCE provides energy, the utility provides transmission, and you receive cleaner, cheaper energy. Source: Peninsula Clean Energy

Before we get to the conflict and intrigue, let’s look at the basics of this new approach to buying electricity. Community Choice Energy, also known as Community Choice Aggregation, is a way for cities, counties or regions in California to look out for their own energy interests, a hybrid between regulated and deregulated electricity supply. The local utility still provides all of the billing services and infrastructure to supply electricity to the point of use, but they are no longer responsible for selecting the electricity supplier. Instead, the community chooses its energy supplier. Possibly the best part of a Community Choice Energy program is that it allows us choice. While CCEs across the state offer electricity with significantly more renewable content—and at lower costs than the utility—customers can still choose to stay with the status quo. No one is required to buy CCE power, anyone can opt-out. By example, let’s look at an actual program. [Read more…]

The Truth of the Matter

Originally Published in the San Diego Free Press on 11/24/16

by Mark Hughes

One of humorist Will Rogers’ signature lines was: “Well, all I know is what I read in the papers.” In subtext, he’s saying he trusted what he read, so it seems reasonable to believe that in those days newspapers lived and died by getting the story right. What a simpler time; if Will was reading papers and the Internet and watching TV today, depending on the sources he chose, some to much of what he learned would be either misleading or just plain false. The information portal guardians have been overrun by hordes bearing rocket-propelled innuendo, guided missile conspiracy theories, and bandoleers bristling with self-serving lies. But that was only the first wall to fall. In this country, those hordes are no longer raging outside governmental gates; soon they will be the government itself.

Welcome to the newest incarnation of the world. The rules, as they always do, have once again changed, and the eternal response is demanded: what do we do about it? How do we live now?

Let’s start with a review of the situation. Truth, in both the social setting and as science’s burnished product, took a hard beating in this election cycle. But perhaps that was an almost foregone conclusion, obvious once recent history is examined from a certain angle.

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